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Separatism, protest or something different: What's going on in CHAZ, Seattle Autonomous Zone?

Author : 112.ua News Agency

Source : 112 Ukraine

In the US city of Seattle, Washington, protesters first forced the cops to leave a plot in one of the areas, and after that, they seized several blocks and surrounded them with barricades
12:00, 22 June 2020

In the US city of Seattle, Washington, protesters first forced the cops to leave a plot in one of the areas, and after that, they seized several blocks and surrounded them with barricades. What is the Autonomous Region, is there really lawlessness there, and the protesters want to secede from the United States? Read our material about who all these people are and why they created a commune on Capitol Hill.

AP photo

Utopia among the city

Everyone can enter the territory of the Organized Protest of Capitol Hill (CHOP - Capitol Hill Organized / Occupied Protest). At the entrance barricades, they are not asked to show documents, Vice News reports.

Only the police are undesirable in the “capitol district:” the new organization positions itself as an example of a safe and organized community without police (police free). Posters of No Co-op (cops without cops) hang everywhere, and after law enforcement officers left the department, the name on the sign was rewritten with a spray from the Seattle Police Department to the Seattle PEOPLE Department.

Related: What China and Russia cannot recognize in Western protests?

Newsweek journalists are ironic that the festival’s atmosphere reigns in CHOP: people ride scooters in the streets, artists paint graffiti, protesters perform jazz performances, and screen films in open-air cinemas. Here you can see the most unexpected things and in places - even crazy ones.

AP photo

In the tent camp, masked volunteers organize the collection and distribution of products: masks, sanitizers, food, and water are freely available. Activists collect garbage themselves, on the territory of the tent camp is very clean. They put up tents on a baseball field, walk and have picnics.

AP photo

Gardener Marcus Henderson set up a garden with greens and vegetables in the park to “feed the revolution” and rethink public space. Now there are organic tomatoes, basil in the park, also a place for compost from waste from the tent city. The garden was planted, observing the social distance.

Related: What China and Russia cannot recognize in Western protests?

On the main street of protests on the asphalt, they wrote in black letters, Black Lives Matter.

Does the Autonomous Region want to secede from the United States?

The first rule of the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) is not to call it the Autonomous Zone. At first, the demonstrators really called themselves that, and at the entrance, there were posters with the words "You are leaving the United States. Welcome to the Capitoline Autonomous Region!" But recently, a zone of several blocks has changed its name after increased attention from conservatives and US President Donald Trump.

Related: Protesters in Seattle proclaim an ‘autonomous zone’: Trump demands ‘return city’

Trump wrote on his Twitter that “disgusting anarchists” and “domestic terrorists” have taken over Seattle. And Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson joked about CHAZ, saying the protesters want to create a new country and secede from the United States.

The Seattle Times

After that, the organizers came up with a new abbreviation: CHOP - Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (Capitol Hill Capture Protest) or Capitol Hill Organized Protest (Organized Capitol Hill Protest). The organizers argue that they did not plan to separate from the United States at all, but they want to protest the authorities' attention to the law enforcement system, demand their change, and also demonstrate how to effectively create a cooperative without police. However, the demonstrators are not going to leave the hill.

Related: Most Americans admitted that protest situation was out of control

Timeline

The protests in Seattle began in late May after the murder during the detention by white policemen of a black American George Floyd in Minneapolis.

AP photo

Donald Trump decided to give a tough answer to the protesters in the United States, taking police officers and the army to the streets. At the same time, the US president outlined proposals to reform the police, change the protocols for the use of force, and increase funding for the training of police personnel. However, he rejected calls to strip the police of funding, saying that this would undermine law and order.

Within two weeks, the area around the police station became a battleground between protesters and the police. The governor sent the National Guard to the place of protests, and Mayor Jenny Durkan imposed a curfew.

The clashes escalated over the weekend, June 6-7, demonstrators threw firecrackers and fireworks into the police, set fire to cars, and a robbery of shops was not complete.

Seattle police began using tear gas and stun grenades over the weekend to disperse protesters. During the police cleansing attempts, many peaceful demonstrators, who did not participate in the clashes themselves, were injured. City council members rebuked the police department, accusing them of tough tactics.

The incident with the use of tear gas angered the crowd: now a protest against the brutal reaction of the security forces has been added to the slogan Black lives matter.

Related: Trump's administration gets sued for breaching rights of protesters

On Monday, June 8, the mayor ordered to remove the barricades near the site, and upholstered the windows of the department with boards. After lengthy clashes, the police were ordered to leave the station.

Since then, protesters have captured an area spanning several blocks of Capitol Hill, which over the past decades has been a hub for an artistic life. The protesters turned the seized space into the Autonomous Zone of Capitol Hill to help strengthen national protests and show with a real-life example of how a society without police can look.

Requirements of the demonstrators

On the wall near the abandoned police station are the main demands of the protesters, here are three of them:

  • Reduce funding for Seattle police and channel these funds to health care (which is especially important in the context of the coronavirus crisis) and other communal needs.
  • Improve disciplinary policies for the police.
  • Drop all charges against protesters.

In addition, there is an expanded and more radical list of requirements, it was published on the CHOP blog. The list is divided into four blocks: the legal system, healthcare, economics and education. The requirements note that the Seattle police and the judiciary are not subject to reform, so they just need to be disbanded, stop funding the police and cancel pensions for law enforcement.

Related: Ukrainian journalist attacked during protests in USA

On June 15, the City Council voted unanimously to ban the Seattle police from using tear gas and pepper solutions during peaceful rallies; they also banned the use of asphyxiation techniques by protocol. This ban will last 30 days. Also, you can’t cover the badge numbers with mourning ribbons, so that in case of abuse of power at the rally, the name could be seen.

In addition, a court in Seattle found that tear gas was used as a violation of the right to freedom of speech against peaceful protesters. Like, they treat citizens as criminals, and they only use their constitutional rights.

The demonstrators also conceded: they allowed the installation of concrete blocks for the passage of emergency vehicles. However, subsequently, just in case, the entrances were quickly blocked by cars.

Seattle prosecutor Pete Holmes, in turn, said that his lawyers will review all cases of offenses against peaceful protesters and may decide to abandon some cases or send them to a nationwide restorative justice program.

Related: Trump hid in bunker during protests at White House

"Get back into your bunker"

The reaction of the politicians

Donald Trump dedicated a series of tweets to Seattle, where he attacked, due to "excessive liberalism," the Democrats, who are leaders in the state of Washington and the city of Seattle.

Seattle’s mayor Jenny Durkan on Twitter commented on Trump’s accusations of failing to disperse the protests.

 The mayor supported the CHOP / CHAZ protests, noting that the Autonomous Region of Capitol Hill is not a lawless armed rebellion. This is a peaceful expression of the collective grief of the community and its desire to create a better world.

Even more so, the mayor has trumped Trump with a video of a press conference where the US president says he only learns about the situation in Seattle from his favorite FoxNews channel.

The politician entered into a dialogue with the protesters and personally visited CHOP / CHAZ, presenting to the crowd options for resolving their demands.

In turn, the police said they want to reopen the site, but it is unclear how long the CHOP / CHAZ protest will continue. Seattle's deputy chief of police Diana Nollet said the police department was abandoned due to threats of being robbed or burned. She believes that the building should not be turned into a community center, as protesters requested.

“Employees should be at the site answering calls to 911,” Nollet said.

Related: 30 US cities go on protest in connection with George Floyd murder

Her main concern is that the response time to 911 calls has increased, she said, 3.5 times.

The city authorities are evaluating when and how police officers can safely return to the area, but so far there are no specific deadlines for this.

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